Disciplinary Process

The General Convention of The Episcopal Church canons regarding Clergy Disciplinary process are known as Title IV.  These make clergy discipline first and foremost a process of discernment, mediation, and pastoral response. The process models those used in the medical, legal, and social work professions.

Canon 1 of Title IV sets the theological context for the process: “By virtue of Baptism, all members of the Church are called to holiness of life and accountability to one another. The Church and each diocese shall support their members in their life in Christ and seek to resolve conflicts by promoting healing, repentance, forgiveness, restitution, justice, amendment of life, and reconciliation among all involved or affected. This Title applies to members of the clergy, who have by their vows at ordination accepted additional responsibilities and accountabilities for doctrine, discipline, worship, and obedience.”

The disciplinary process is defined below.

The Episcopal Church in Delaware is dedicated to an unwavering response of justice and compassion if clergy misconduct occurs, and committed to healing and reconciliation. The diocese and The Episcopal Church recognize that responding to allegations of misconduct requires determination, sensitivity, and respect for all persons affected. Below are several resources and guidelines regarding response to clergy misconduct in the Episcopal Church in Delaware.

The General Convention of The Episcopal Church canons regarding Clergy Disciplinary process are known as Title IV.  These make clergy discipline first and foremost a process of discernment, mediation, and pastoral response. The process models those used in the medical, legal, and social work professions.

Canon 1 of Title IV sets the theological context for the process: “By virtue of Baptism, all members of the Church are called to holiness of life and accountability to one another. The Church and each diocese shall support their members in their life in Christ and seek to resolve conflicts by promoting healing, repentance, forgiveness, restitution, justice, amendment of life, and reconciliation among all involved or affected. This Title applies to members of the clergy, who have by their vows at ordination accepted additional responsibilities and accountabilities for doctrine, discipline, worship, and obedience.”

An overview of the process

Under the canons, all matters will be reported to an intake officer (find contact information below).  Matters might then be resolved through pastoral care, mediation, an agreement with the bishop, an investigation, or any combination of these. An investigation may result in formal mediation, and, if necessary, a hearing.

The process allows for resolution through whatever means will move those affected toward justice, restitution, amendment of life, repentance, healing, forgiveness, and reconciliation. This can include a variety of interventions for all involved and, if necessary, the suspension or removal of the cleric from ordained ministry.

You can view the Title IV Canons here.

What constitutes clergy misconduct

Title IV specifies that clergy conduct constituting an offense is behavior that will affect their ministry in significant (“material”) ways. These are the areas Title IV addresses. Clergy should refrain from: (Canon IV.4.1 (h) 1-8)

  • any act of sexual misconduct;
  • holding and teaching publicly or privately, and advisedly, any doctrine contrary to that held by the Church:
  • engaging in any secular employment, calling, or business without the consent of the bishop of the diocese in which the member of the clergy is canonically resident
  • being absent from the diocese in which the member of the clergy is canonically resident, except as provided in Canon III.9.3(e) for more than two years without the consent of the Bishop Diocesan;
  • any criminal act that reflects adversely on the member of the clergy’s honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a minister of the Church;
  • conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation;
  • habitual neglect of the exercise of the ministerial office without cause; or habitual neglect of public worship, and of the Holy Communion, according to the order and use of the Church; and
  • any conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy.

Clergy standards of conduct

Members of the clergy should:

•  Maintain confidentiality
•  Safeguard property and funds of the church
•  Conform to the canons of The Episcopal Church and the rubrics of The Book of Common Prayer
•  Abide by ordination vows
•  Obtain consent of the bishop before engaging in secular employment
•  Obtain consent of the bishop to be absent from the diocese for more than two years

Members of the clergy should not:

•  Engage in sexual misconduct (includes sexual behavior with:  a member of the congregation; employee; volunteer; person in high school;  person under 18 years of age; person legally incompetent; someone with whom the clergy has ever had a pastoral relationship)
•  Hold or teach any doctrine contrary to that held by the Episcopal Church
•  Commit criminal acts
•  Engage in dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation
•  Habitually neglect public worship, Holy Communion
•  Engage in any conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy

Please note: Members of the clergy are required to report to an intake officer anything that may constitute an offense and to cooperate with the Disciplinary Board.


To report misconduct committed by a lay person

Notify the rector or other clergy person on staff of the lay person’s church or of the church of the offended person. The clergy person should then call the Bishop’s Office.  Contact information here.

All suspected child abuse or sexual misconduct must also be reported to Child Protective Services. Call the statewide toll-free hotline 1-800-292-9582 to make the initial report.

In reporting to Child Protective Services, it is helpful for the reporter to provide as much of the following as possible: the name and address of the child and the parent or person responsible for his/her care; the child’s age, sex and race; a description of the alleged abuse and neglect including how long it may have been happening; the name of the school the child attends; the names of other people, especially children, in the home; the reporter’s relationship to the child. Do report even if you are unable to provide all of the information. The person reporting abuse to Child Protective Services is not required to give his or her name.

If you suspect abuse, neglect or exploitation of an adult over age 60, or an incapacitated adult over the age of 18, call the Delaware Adult Protective Services, 800-223-9074.

Anyone may contact a diocesan intake officer to report concerns about the behavior of a member of the clergy (priests, deacons, bishops). This initiates a process to hold clergy accountable for their behavior. You will receive a timely response if you need to leave a message.

The Intake Officer will:

  • Listen with respect
  • Offer pastoral care and response
  • Create a written report regarding the concern(s) presented
  • Answer questions about the process

The Intake Officers for the Diocese of Delaware are:

  • Robert Irwin
    302.354.4636 (cell)
  • Donna Strachan-Ledbetter
    302.354.1895 (cell)
  • The Rev. Ruth Beresford
    302.824.5885 (cell)

Donna Strachan-Ledbetter is a Pastoral Psychotherapist with the Brandywine Pastoral Institute in Lewes and is a board certified counselor licensed with the State of Delaware. She has been a therapist for about 30 years.

Donna is on the vestry of St. Peter’s Church in Lewes and also served on the vestry at Trinity Parish in Wilmington. She has been involved on a diocesan level for over two decades working with clergy, church staffs, and congregations in various capacities — raising awareness and acceptance of same-sex relationships, conflict resolution, education, consulting, safe church training, and involvement in the Church’s initiative of Invite-Welcome-Connect.

The Rev. Ruth Beresford has been ordained for 30 years, serving in the Dioceses of Pennsylvania and Delaware in three congregations. Before her seminary education she worked as an investigative caseworker in Child Protective Services, with experience in physical abuse and neglect and in the incest and sexual abuse unit. She is a facilitator for Darkness to Light, a child abuse prevention training program.

Over the course of her ordained ministry, Ruth has served in a number of diocesan, community, and church wide bodies to serve God’s people.

Bob Irwin is a member of Immanuel on the Green in New Castle, serving regularly as an acolyte and Eucharistic minister and previously as a member of the vestry and in a variety of offices within the parish. He is actively involved in outreach, especially Emmanuel Dining Room. Bob has a lifetime of serving the public good in various capacities, from an early career as a police officer to presently in investigations for the Justice Department of the State of Delaware. Bob has a graduate degree from St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. He is married and lives in New Castle with his wife, Dora.

Members of the Diocesan Disciplinary Board, as of January 1, 2021

  • The Rev. Kim Capwell
  • Ms. Teri Quinn Gray
  • The Rev. Deacon Cecily Sawyer Harmon
  • The Rev. Canon Mark Harris
  • Mr. Paul Hurdle III
  • The Rev. Dr. Marta Illueca
  • The Rev. Margaret Pumphrey, president
  • Mr. Tim Willard
  • Dr. Ted Wilson
Suspension of statute of limitations regarding clergy misconduct

April 4, 2019

[PDF Format]

Blessings to you this Lent, my sisters and brothers in Delaware,

I write this pastoral letter to share with you an important action of the Episcopal Church, and I ask you to help me spread this news as widely as possible, not only within the church but across Delaware and beyond. The Episcopal Church has taken a critical step toward properly addressing past abuses by clergy toward laypersons as well as other clergy. As a bishop colleague of mine has rightly said, “For far too long there has been too much silence, and often misdirection, when persons in our church were brave enough to bring forward allegations against clergy”.

Last summer, General Convention of the Episcopal Church passed Resolution D034, which authorized a temporary suspension of the statute of limitations that required an adult victim of clergy sexual misconduct to make the allegation within ten years of the offense. The suspension of the statute of limitations began on January 1, 2019 and will be in place for three years, ending on December 31, 2021. (There is no statute of limitations on allegations of sexual conduct against a minor. These allegations may be reported at any time.)

In other words, this resolution permits any allegation of sexual misconduct against any bishop, priest, or deacon in the Episcopal Church to be raised through 2021, regardless of when the offense took place. Therefore, you do not have to wonder if an allegation comes from too long ago, regardless of what you may have heard or been told in the past.

The canon in question (Title IV.19.4) and the precise wording of D034 are available on our diocesan website. If you would prefer a printed copy of these materials simply call my office and we will quickly send it to you.

As your bishop, I unequivocally support this resolution and pray that victims of sexual abuse find the strength to seek healing and justice. Delaware, like every diocese in the Episcopal Church, has intake officers who confidentially and pastorally receive allegations of clergy misconduct. You can easily find the contact information for our intake officers on our diocesan website under Clergy Misconduct (found within the Resource tab), as well as other resources about the entire clergy disciplinary process.

While this step by the church is significant, it is only one small effort to correct the errors of our past. Over the next three years, you will hear more about this resolution, as well as our ongoing efforts in the Episcopal Church to seek justice, promote healing, and rebuild trust.

Please pray for all those affected by misconduct, and pray for the healing power of the Holy Spirit, the very spirit of truth (John 14.17), that Jesus has sent on our behalf. There is no hurt that the resurrection love of Jesus cannot reach, and I claim this hope when I pray for new life for our church and for us all.

Faithfully,

The Rt. Rev. Kevin S. Brown XI Bishop of Delaware

D034 Amend Canon IV.19.4 – Suspending Statute of Limitations

Resolved, That the 79th General Convention amend Canon IV.19.4 to read as follows:

Sec. 4(a) A Member of the Clergy shall not be subject to proceedings under this Title for acts committed more than ten years before the initiation of proceedings except:

  1. if a Member of the Clergy is convicted in a criminal Court of Record or a judgment in a civil Court of Record in a cause involving immorality, proceedings may be initiated at any time within three years after the conviction or judgment becomes final;
  2. if an alleged Injured Person was under the age of twenty-one years at the time of the alleged acts, proceedings may be initiated at any time prior to the alleged Injured Person’s attaining the age of twenty-five years; or
  3. if an alleged Injured Person is otherwise under disability at the time of the alleged acts, or if the acts alleged were not discovered, or the effects thereof were not realized, during the ten years immediately following the date of the acts alleged, the time within which proceedings may be initiated shall be extended to two years after the disability ceases or the alleged Injured Person discovers or realizes the effects of the acts alleged; provided, however, the time within which proceedings may be initiated shall not be extended beyond fifteen years from the date the acts are alleged to have been committed.

(b) The time limits of Subsection (a) above shall not apply with respect to persons whose acts include physical violence, sexual abuse or sexual exploitation, if the acts occurred when the alleged Injured Person was under the age of twenty-one years; in any such case, proceedings under this Title may be initiated at any time.

(c) The time limits of Subsection (a) above shall not apply with respect to persons whose acts include sexual misconduct, provided proceedings are initiated under this Title between January 1, 2019 December 2, 2018 and December 31, 2021.

(c d) Except as provided in Subsection (b) above, the time limitations for initiation of proceedings in this Section shall be retroactive only to January 1, 1996.

(d e) No proceedings under this Title shall be initiated for acts which are alleged to violate Canon IV.3.1(a) or to constitute a breach of Canon IV.4.1(b), (c), (e) or (h)(2) unless the acts were committed within or continued up to two years immediately preceding the time the proceedings are initiated.

(e f) For purposes of this Section 4, proceedings are initiated under this Title with respect to a particular Offense when specific allegations of the commission of that Offense are made to the Intake Officer.


[PDF Format, Title IV ENGLISH]
[PDF Format, Title IV SPANISH]
Below text is extracted from Title IV: Esclesiastical Discipline

TITLE IV | CANON IV .19.4-5 (page 256) (c) The time limits of Subsection (a) above shall not apply with respect to persons whose acts include sexual misconduct, provided proceedings are initiated under this Title between January 1, 2019 and December 31, 2021.

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